How to Remove a Tick From a Dog

Put your mind at ease and follow these proactive steps to take care of your active, outdoor-loving dog.

When you and your dog spend time outdoors, there's no doubt that you're crossing paths with ticks. The likelihood of capturing a tick on your clothing or on your pet's fur may increase when you’re in wooded, dense areas, but leave no doubt, there are ticks in every urban park and suburban backyard, too.

Woman cycling with a dog. Young woman riding bicycle together with her beagle dog pet running nearby. Traveling with a dog

Woman cycling with a dog. Young woman riding bicycle together with her beagle dog pet running nearby. Traveling with a dog

Photo by: Shutterstock/IceW

Shutterstock/IceW

Dog owners who learn to quickly identify ticks on their pets and successfully remove them can help reduce illness. "Ticks can transmit diseases such as Lyme, Ehrlichia, Anaplasma and others," says Dr. Gary Richter, veterinarian and founder of Ultimate Pet Nutrition. "In order to transmit these bacteria to your dog, the tick needs to be attached for at least 36-48 hours. Getting embedded ticks off sooner than that can help prevent disease transmission."

Identifying a Tick

Ticks, like spiders, have a small body and tiny legs that can uniquely cling and climb on their host. They don't jump about like fleas, but they're more inclined to sit and wait in trees, bushes and grasses until they find signs of movement and warmth from living bodies.

Closeup of human hands use silver pliers to remove dog adult tick from the fur

Closeup of human hands use silver pliers to remove dog adult tick from the fur

Photo by: Shutterstock/Napat

Shutterstock/Napat

Once a tick finds its host, it holds on tight. A tick will climb through the fur or hairs on your dog until it finds the right spot. Unfortunately, since dogs walk, sniff and roll through grasses and wooded areas, the ticks can easily attach to any part of their bodies.

Ticks release numbing and anticoagulant agents to make it easier to attach themselves to the host. Unlike a sting, the numbing agents also mask pain from their initial bite. Ticks can remain attached for several weeks, leaching blood from the dog, but as Dr. Richter said, finding them within the first two days is critical to the health of your pet. Unfortunately, time isn't on the side of pet owners. Ticks attach when they are very small, making them hard to find in the first 12-24 hours. After that, they grow to be more obvious. They will get more engorged and expand as they consume the host's blood. While they may start out the size of a freckle on one's skin, they can quickly expand to the size of a grain of rice or a raisin.

tick on the dog

tick on the dog

Photo by: Shutterstock/chanon khunkitti

Shutterstock/chanon khunkitti

Finding Ticks

Even when ticks are tiny, it's likely that you'll feel a tick on your pet before you see it. It may present like a solid skin tag while brushing or petting through their fur. It's important that pet owners do frequent tick checks on their dogs to try and monitor for any irregularities. A tick can latch onto any part of a dog, even a highly visible place, like on the dog's ear or on its face.

When you feel a bump on the skin, it's always best to get a bright light from a flashlight to confirm what you feel. Sometimes these irregularities are just healing scabs, so always take a closer look. If it's the body of a tick, immediately take action to remove it.

Veterinarian parasite mite removes of the dog's skin

Veterinarian parasite mite removes of the dog's skin

Photo by: Shutterstock/Iryna Kalamurza

Shutterstock/Iryna Kalamurza

Removing Ticks

When you find a tick attached to your pet's skin, follow these steps to remove it as promptly as possible.

  • Pull the fur away from the tick so the skin surrounding the tick is visible.
  • Use a pair of tweezers or a tick remover tool to grasp the base of the tick around either side of its head.
  • Pinch and gently pull the head of the tick straight out of the skin. Check the removed tick to see if you captured all body parts. If the head or mouth is missing, it's likely that they were submerged in the wound. Don't be alarmed. It may cause a little swelling but shouldn't prevent the wound from healing.
removing a tick from cat or dog skin with tick remover tool

removing a tick from cat or dog skin with tick remover tool

Photo by: Shutterstock/Todorean-Gabriel

Shutterstock/Todorean-Gabriel

Soaking the embedded tick with alcohol or lubricant are often suggested, but not recommended. Neither treatment will force a tick to detach or reduce the likelihood of disease transmission. Using a tool is the most reliable way to remove a tick.

What symptoms should you watch for after you remove a tick?

"It is very common for a dog to develop a firm nodule or swelling at the site of the tick bite. This can last for weeks and is generally nothing to worry about," confirms Dr. Richter. "There can also be some redness around the bite area. If the redness or swelling seems excessive or painful, have a veterinarian have a look."

He also suggests monitoring for lethargy and exhaustion. "Signs of lethargy or joint soreness in dogs that have had tick exposure should also be investigated."

Special collar to protect dogs from ticks. Outside. Autumn spring period mite.

Special collar to protect dogs from ticks. Outside. Autumn spring period mite.

Photo by: Shutterstock/Luiza Kamalova

Shutterstock/Luiza Kamalova

Preventing Future Tick Bites

Pet owners can prevent the transmission of illness from tick bites by taking two actions: vaccinating your dog for Lyme disease and committing to a good preventative routine. The vaccine is the first line of defense, especially if you live in areas with higher likelihood of ticks. Preventative treatments add more protection. Products like the Seresto collar, Nexgard and Simparica will combat ticks by forcing them to ingest treated blood, in which case the ticks will die before they can attach for an extended time.

Precautions aside, it's important to get into a routine of checking your pet for ticks. No barrier comes with a 100% guarantee, so it's always important to remove ticks as soon as you find them on your dog.

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